Ensuring your employees are connected and engaged is impactful for your business. But employee engagement isn’t just about office perks and bonuses. It’s about leaning into what matters most to your employees so they want to stay, refer others to your organization, and give their best effort every day.
Read on for seven employee engagement strategies we’ve learned from powering Top Workplaces, the nation’s most credible employer recognition program.
What is employee engagement?
There are tons of definitions and signs of employee engagement. And sometimes, the terms employee engagement and job satisfaction are used interchangeably. But it’s important to know that employee engagement differs from job satisfaction, which is how happy employees are in their roles.
At Top Workplaces, our definition of employee engagement is simple: Employee engagement is a positive psychological state where an employee feels an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals.
It’s a measure of how strongly employees feel connected to their work and their employer. To measure engagement, we look at three specific things:
- Commitment: An employee’s intent to stay.
- Referral: An employee’s willingness to recommend their organization to others.
- Motivation: An employee’s drive to give their best at work.
Employees who possess all three of these have passion and energy — and they’re less likely to leave your organization for a different opportunity. They’re engaged and will go above and beyond for your organization.
Successful employee engagement strategies and examples
Choosing the right employee engagement strategies is essential to achieving the desired outcome. So, let’s dive into seven of the top employee engagement strategies and how we’ve seen them improve employee engagement with Top Workplaces winners.
Start with an employee engagement survey
Top Workplaces, the employer recognition program that offers year-round regional and national awards, is based entirely on the employee feedback captured by a research-backed employee engagement survey. Top Workplaces know that effective employee engagement strategies start with leaning into employee feedback. From alignment to connection to the relationships employees have with their manager and performance effectiveness, an anonymous employee engagement survey is how Top Workplaces leaders know what truly matters to their people. It’s how they know where they excel, where they can improve, and where they stand against the competition.
Encourage transparent communication and employee feedback
A successful communication strategy helps to ensure employees are connected and engaged. Top-down, one-way communication may be easy. But it’s two-way, transparent communication that is key. And when the workforce is remote, it’s especially important to establish guidelines for remote work. Here are three best practices used by Top Workplaces:
- Make two-way communication possible. Use your annual employee engagement survey to capture anonymous feedback and guide your decision-making. Consider shorter, more frequent pulse surveys to check in and know if messages have landed correctly.
- Encourage two-way communication in meetings. Set guidelines and encourage employees to participate, especially when they’re remote. If employees are hesitant to interact, ask them for input.
- Set aside time for causal dialogue. Leave time at the start of each meeting to check in with people. Allow them to catch up and share what’s going on.
INCOE Corporation, a family-owned, global business, experienced recent growth that threatened its communication ability. To avoid this, they initiated a multifaceted approach to ensuring two-way workplace communication, including:
- Capturing anonymous feedback via the Workplace Survey.
- An open-door policy from the top down.
- Rewards for employee suggestions.
- Anonymous call-in line.
- Free, confidential counseling services.
- Education sessions to explain benefits programs.
A year later, INCOE earned a spot on the Detroit Free Press Top Workplaces list for the first time. For Tim Chisholm, Director of Human Resources, the Top Workplaces award took a back seat to increased employee engagement. “As employees saw us integrating their ideas, it opened it up for even more employees to come forward and share their thoughts,” he concluded. “People have many ideas. You’ve just got to stop and listen.”
Create a clear path for employee growth opportunities
One way to keep employees engaged in their roles is to ensure that they see a company’s path forward. At Top Workplaces, this includes investing in professional developing, facilitating mentorships, and promoting from within. It’s also key to improving the hiring process.
Employees value companies that are invested in their personal development, and — not surprisingly — employees are likelier to stick around when they believe the company wants to invest in them rather than hire new talent with the necessary skills. According to LinkedIn, 94 percent of employees report they would “stay at a company longer if it invested in their career.”
Professional development is an emphasis at Tutton Insurance, a multi-year winner Top Workplaces winner. “Not all companies like ours will encourage or pay for an industry designation,” said Katy Portfolio, Executive Vice President and Controller. “Our president, Bill Tutton, feels like the best strategy for us to differentiate ourselves from others in the industry is to be more knowledgeable. He will pay for the education. He’ll pay for the designation. So, when we show up with the designation behind our name, it gives credence to us being a little better than our competitors.”
Skill development improves employee performance, so it’s essential to make employees aware of internal growth opportunities. It shows your investment in the team and helps promote internal recruitment and retention by providing employees with concrete examples of how they can progress their careers at the organization. And when employees see a path for growth, the company gains employee retention benefits.
Compensate and recognize employees for their work
Top Workplaces don’t distinguish themselves with more significant benefits or higher pay. Yet, in an increasingly transparent and competitive labor market, it’s important to structure your compensation structure to attract and retain employees.
When employees perform above and beyond their expected role, show them how their work is valued and how it benefits the organization. Whether through bonuses or non-financial incentives like public shout-outs or an extra PTO day, appreciating your employees for their hard work goes a long way to ensuring that they stay engaged in their role.
Leaders at Fellowship Community, a multi-year Top Workplaces winner, a culture of employee appreciation is at the heart of satisfaction for both residents and employees. “We’re proactive about coming up with things to let employees know they are appreciated,” said Donna Conley, Chief Operating Officer.
Consider your office layout
Creating an environment that encourages engagement is the office layout. An open office concept filled with safe meeting rooms and common areas enables employees to communicate better and more frequently. It promotes collaboration, strategic brainstorming, training, and mentoring.
Outside of work-oriented activities, having an area for employees to take breaks, eat lunch, celebrate together, and generally spend time can support an engaged company culture.
Working in a shared space is not always possible, so companies have learned to facilitate remote employee engagement to maintain or build relationships between employees. Even if your workforce is remote, ensuring that employees can interact meaningfully is critical to employee engagement.
American Integrity Insurance has built a Top Workplaces culture with an innovative approach to recruiting, “extraordinary experiences,” and a focus on gratitude. According to Michael Goodman, Human Resources Director, “It seems counterintuitive to think of a modern workplace as a place of tranquility, but that is exactly our approach. We want to make these eight hours precious, valuable, even joyful.”
Encourage PTO and employee offsites
Creating a culture that embraces a healthy work/life balance ensures employees can live the lives they want while remaining fresh, engaged, and productive at work. Promoting workplace flexibility (especially in a remote environment) helps people manage their time according to what works best.
Ensuring you have established guidelines and protocols to follow helps mitigate any risk of allowing employees to set their schedules. You’ll find that they can take breaks, recharge, and return to work focused.
Another way to ensure your employees achieve work/life balance is to allow them to disconnect from day-to-day work tasks with activities such as company retreats or volunteer opportunities. Make sure to choose an activity that aligns with your company values.
For president Marty Kaufman, president of Accent Computer Solutions Inc., encouraging work-life balance is a priority. “My catchphrase is: We don’t want to torture our employees or our customers. But seriously, that means that if you’re working your employees too hard and you’re not delivering exceptional services to the client, then both are unhappy.”
Another way to embrace work/life balance is to encourage employees to use their PTO. Ensuring that employees can focus on their work while in-office but have room to travel, pursue their passions, or recharge is critical.
Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion
Before we discuss the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), let’s clarify the definition of each term within the workplace:
- Diversity is the collective composition of teams and organizations.
- Equity refers to proportional representation and acknowledges the different needs of employees.
- Inclusion relates to value and presenting an equal opportunity to participate and contribute.
DEI plays a vital role in employee engagement as well as business success. When employees believe there is a lack of diversity and inclusion within your culture, it hits hard on employee engagement — and according to one study, this is especially true for millennials. In fact, 83 percent are actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive culture, compared to only 60 percent of millennials who are actively engaged when their organization does not foster an inclusive culture.
As you craft your employee engagement strategies, be certain to include and prioritize your DEI efforts.
Employee engagement roles: who should be involved
The right employee engagement strategy is a catalyst for performance — and the bottom line. It requires alignment and buy-in throughout the organization, from managers and human resources to senior leaders, the C-suite, and even the IT team.
Managers are mission-critical for the day-to-day understanding of progress through employee engagement strategies. Communication is one of the most important qualities of a good manager. They are responsible for communicating company priorities and helping the team see how they can positively impact. Managers are also responsible for communicating with senior leaders about areas of opportunity where the team can contribute.
- HR needs to help secure buy-in and communicate opportunities for growth and transparency into organizational changes.
- Senior leaders and the C-suite bring a strategic vision to the table. They need to understand the importance of an engagement initiative, how it can strengthen the organization, and how they impact buy-in throughout the organization.
- IT is critical to ensuring communication lines are effective and efficient, ensuring the team has proper access to the technology they need to communicate.
These aren’t the only team members that should be involved in developing a robust employee engagement strategy. Tap into employee leaders to gain their feedback and ensure they help gain buy-in from the team. If employees are resistant, you will fight an uphill battle that will impact your initiative’s success.
Measure and iterate on your employee engagement strategy
Once you have created and launched the employee engagement strategies you wish to use, be sure to capture feedback on what’s working — and what’s not. Measuring and iterating on your employee engagement strategy is critical to long-term success. Here are two suggestions:
- Regular 1:1s between managers and employees create two-way communication and dialogue.
- Annual employee engagement surveys capture candid, anonymous feedback at the strategic level. The results also provide you with a dataset that is measured against benchmarks across the organization.
- Short, targeted custom pulse surveys make it quick and easy to check in and track your employee engagement strategies’ progress.
Choosing an employee engagement survey such as the one that powers Top Workplaces provides you with insights that are compared across the industry’s most robust benchmarks. This research-based survey has been administered to more than 27 million employees at over 70,000 organizations.
And if your results meet the Top Workplaces threshold, your company may earn coveted employer recognition, including regional, national, industry, and culture excellence awards. Use these to attract top talent and new business.
Learn about what participation in an employee engagement survey can do for your business by nominating your organization for the Top Workplaces program.